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Frequently Asked Questions - Political Activity




Question:  Is it okay for an elected official who is covered by the Hatch Act to ask subordinate employees to help with his reelection campaign?

Answer:  No.  While elected officials are exempt from the candidacy prohibition of the Hatch Act, they are still subject to the other two prohibitions - the prohibitions against using one's official authority to affect the result of an election and directly or indirectly coercing a state, D.C., or local employee to make a political contribution.  Because it is inherently coercive for a supervisor to ask a subordinate employee to contribute to a political cause, the Hatch Act would prohibit an elected official fro asking subordinate employees to help or contribute to his reelection campaign.

Question:  I am a Hatch Act covered employee and a supervisor, can I ask my staff to volunteer for the governor's campaign, or the campaign for any other elected official?

Answer:  No.  As discussed in the question above, it is inherently coercive for a supervisor to ask a subordinate employee to contribute to a political cause.  Therefore, the Hatch Act would prohibit a supervisor from asking subordinates to volunteer for any partisan political campaign, political party, etc.

Question:  I am a Hatch Act covered employee and a supervisor.  May I invite my subordinates to a fundraiser for a partisan candidate or political party?

Answer:  No.  Inviting subordinate employees to a political fundraiser would violate two provisions of the Hatch Act.  First, inviting subordinate state or local employees to a political fundraiser would violate the Act's prohibition against directly or indirectly coercing, attempting to coerce, or advising other employees to make a political contribution, even if the supervisory employee does not expressly ask the individuals to contribute money.  Second, inviting subordinate employees to any political event would violate the Act's prohibition against using one's official influence or authority to affect the result of an election.  Such conduct is inherently coercive, and violates the Act even if the supervisory employee does not threaten to penalize subordinates who do not attend or promise to reward those who do attend.

Question:  Is a Hatch Act investigation an administrative or criminal matter?

Answer:  A Hatch Act investigation is an administrative matter.  Hatch Act matters are adjudicated before the Merit Systems Protection Board, which is an administrative agency.

Question:  Tina, an NPS employee, lives in Federal housing provided by the National Park Service where she works.  She wanted to know whether she could display political signs in the window or on the front lawn of her home.

Answer:  The answer is yes.  The statutory prohibition governing political activities specifically prohibits a Federal employee from engaging in political activities while on duty or in a room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties or in uniform.  Because housing units would not be considered rooms or buildings occupied in the discharge of official duties, the law would not prohibit employees from displaying political signs in their homes or on their lawns.  See 5 USC §§ 7321-7326

Question:  Can I be covered by the Hatch Act even if my salary is not federally funded?

Answer:  Yes, The Merit Systems Protection Board has held that the test of whether an employee is covered by the Hatch Act is whether, as a normal and foreseeable incident of his principal employment, the employee performs duties in connection with an activity financed in whole or in part by federal funds.  Special Counsel v. Gallagher, 44 M.S.P.R. 57, 61 (1990) If an employee meets this standard, the source of the employee's salary is irrelevant.  See Special Counsel v. Williams, 56 M.S.P.R. 277, 283-84 (1993), aff'd, Williams v. M.S.P.B, 55 F.3d 917 (4th Cir. 1995).

Partisan Elections and Candidacy

Question:  What is a partisan election?

Answer:  The Hatch Act defines partisan as referring to a political party.  5 C.F.R. §151.101(h).  Thus,  under the Hatch Act, an election for public office is a partisan election if any candidate is running as a representative of, for instance, the Republican or Democratic Party.  An employee covered by the Act may not be a candidate for public office in a partisan election.  5 U.S.C. § 1502(a)(3).

Question:  Can I be appointed to public office?

Answer:  Yes.  The Hatch Act does not prohibit a covered employee from being appointed to a partisan political office.  However, if the employee is covered by the Hatch Act, the employee would be prohibited from seeking election to that office.

Question:  Is an elected official (e.g., Sheriff, Mayor, etc.) who is covered by the Hatch Act prohibited from running for reelection?

Answer:  No.  The Hatch Act specifically exempts individuals who hold elective office from the prohibition against being a candidate for public office in a partisan election if the elected office is the individual's principal employment.  5 U.S.C. § 1502(c)(4).  Please note, however, that this exemption applies only when the elective office is the position that would otherwise subject the employee to the restrictions of the Hatch Act.

Nonpartisan Elections and Candidacy

Question:  What is a nonpartisan election?

Answer:  The Hatch Act defines a nonpartisan election as "an election at which none of the candidates is to be nominated or elected as representing a political party any of whose candidates for Presidential elector received votes in the last preceding election at which Presidential electors were selected."  5 C.F.R. §151.101 (g); see also 5 U.S.C. §1503.  Examples of political parties that received votes in the last Presidential election are the Democratic, Republican, Libertarian and Green Parties.  The Hatch Act does not prohibit covered employees from being candidates in nonpartisan elections.